Tag: MasterCard

British banking system ends up with the US

mastercardMasterCard has said “that will do nicely” to itself and is going to spend up to $1.14 billion on buying a majority stake of  a crucial part of the UK’s payments infrastructure.

Up for grabs is VocaLink runs Link, the network that provides interoperability between British ATMs, as well as BACS, the clearing house for payments between bank accounts, and Faster Payments, the inter-bank transfer system for Internet and telephone-based payments.

According to MasterCard  the deal would create “the first true combination of the traditional person-to-merchant cards business with a clearing business”. That is, of course, presuming it clears regulatory scrutiny.

It is responsible for processing more than 90 percent of British salaries and over 70 percent  of British household bills. It also handles almost all state-issued benefits.

VocaLink developed the Zapp payments tool for British mobile banking apps, and the Paym mobile payments system, which identifies recipients of payments by their mobile phone numbers. Both have a lot of buy-in across U.K. banks, and it also licenses its technology to countries including the US, Sweden, Singapore, and Thailand.

VocaLink is currently owned by a consortium comprised of big banks and building societies, such as Barclays, HSBC, and Royal Bank of Scotland the current shareholders would hang onto 7.6 percent of the company for at least three years.

MasterCard would pay out around $920 million at the start.

MasterCard chief Ajay Banga said that VocaLink was unique with outstanding technology, assets and people.

The UK payment systems regulator said in February that the common ownership of VocaLink by “a relatively small number of banks” was harmful to innovation and competition. It recommended that the banks sell their stakes.


Credit card firms want to stalk you on the web

A report in the Wall Street Journal said Visa and Mastercard have cunning plans to use what they know about you to push ads at you when you’re online.

Apparently, for example if you’ve just bought a burger with your credit then go online, the companies could, in principle, then push ads to you from competing fast food joints.  

In effect, both companies possess so much information about you if you use credit cards that they have a vast database of information that they want to exploit further.

Although Visa and Mastercard don’t have your name and address, one document the WSJ has seen says “you are what you buy”.

The report said that Visa has a patent pending that will link in DNA databases too, all with the idea of stalking you online and pushing ads at you that they think you might want.

Cards are issued by merchants, such as Barclays or Natwest, but the report, which you can find here, says that Mastercard has all the details about 23 billion purchases it makes a year.

Are we safe in their hands? We’d venture to say, er no.

Google readies Android NFC for data gathering

The all encompassing Google, known for its “accidental” data collecting, is getting cosy with MasterCard and Citigroup. Together the trio have come up with technology which will allow customers to use their Android mobile phones to buy items by waving their smartphones in front of a small reader at the checkout counter.

According to the WSJ the scheme would start with holders of Citigroup-issued debit and credit cards being able to use the service by activating a mobile payment application developed for one current handset.

Google has also said that it will not take a cut of any of the transaction fees. Instead, Google will be using NFC to boost its advertising business.

Sources told the Wall Street Journal that Google would use the technology as a way to offer retailers more data about their customers. This will help it target ads to mobile-device users near their stores.

Sounds rather like data harvesting.

Privacy advocate Big Brother Watch has its concerns. Daniel Hamilton, director, told TechEye: “Allowing people to pay for goods with their mobile phones would be an interesting step forward in development of contactless payment systems.

 “While there are clear advantages for consumers in using such systems in terms of both ease and speed, it is important that retailers are straight with their customers about exactly how their data will be used.

“Contactless payment systems should be about customer convenience, not targeting advertising at unsuspecting consumers without the prior knowledge and expressed permission,” he added.

A Google spokesperson told TechEye that it doesn’t comment on rumour or speculation.

Anonymous members arrested in Blighty

The old bill could have finally caught up with some of the members of the DDoS and social activism group Anonymous.

According to breaking reports they have arrested five men who could be responsible for a range of web attacks carried out in support of Wikileaks. In the past they have targeted the likes of PayPal, Mastercard and Amazon, which have turned their back on the website.

The five men were picked up from their homes in the West Midlands, Northamptonshire, Hertfordshire, Surrey and London this morning.

This investigation by the Central e-Crime Unit was carried out in conjunction with law enforcement agencies in Europe and, surprise, the US.

All five have been taken to local police stations where they remain in custody.

Members of Anonymous have previously had run-ins with the law – in the US, at an anti-Scientology protest, an activist claims he was unfairly targeted and victim of a sting over attack charges.

Wikileaks gives Bradley Manning $15,100 for legal defence

Wikileaks has given Private Bradley Manning, who is facing charges over leaking diplomatic cables to the whistle-blowing website, $15,100 for his legal fees – well below what was originally promised and what was expected.

Manning faces up to 52 years in prison if convicted for the crime and his legal fees amount to over $100,000, making the donation by Wikileaks seem a little paltry.

Indeed, Wikileaks was supposed to shoulder half the bill, $50,000, according to the Bradley Manning Support Network, which is only fitting since the website would have very little to share without Manning’s leak.

That offer dropped by more than half in December to $20,000, possibly because of Julian Assange’s own legal battles. Today the number is still $4,900 short. Wikileaks did not comment on why the number is short of the target, but restrictions on its finances may have resulted from PayPal, Visa and MasterCard closing down its accounts.

That explanation may not sit well with anyone who has made a donation, many of whom would have donated under the impression that the money would go to Manning. Exactly what Wikileaks has done with its donations remains a mystery. 

It supposedly raised $800,000 so far and has promised several times to be transparent with its spending, but that has not yet happened. At one point last year it considered paying staff up to €2,500 ($3,341) per month, but even then that would leave a large chunk of money unaccounted for.

The Bradley Manning Support Network has so far collected $100,000, including the Wikileaks donation. This should be enough to cover the flat fee of the same value to attorney David Coombs, but the Network believes that a further $15,000 is needed for extraneous legal fees.

Once the target is met the Support Network said it will focus on highlighting the mistreatment of Manning by US authorities. Manning is currently in solitary confinement.

Irish political party website hacked by Anonymous

The website of one of Ireland’s largest political parties, Fine Gael, was hacked last night by Anonymous, the same group behind a number of DDoS attacks on MasterCard, Visa, Paypal and Amazon for failing to support Wikileaks.

The hack resulted in the compromise of the details of 2,000 members of the public who registered their support with the party on its recently relaunched website, ahead of a Spring election. Fine Gael contacted the Data Protection Commissioner and Garda Computer Crime Unit about the data breach.

The number of users affected could be much larger than the 2,000 cited by Fine Gael, however. An Irish journalist working for The Evening Herald claims it has received the details of 4,000 people who signed up to the party’s website.

Details that were obtained in the hack, which took place between 8:00pm and midnight, include email address, IP addresses and mobile phone numbers. Fine Gael said that all users who are affected have been emailed about the breach.

It is largely expected that Fine Gael will win the most seats at the next General Election in March, leading a government coalition with the Labour Party. A recent opinion poll suggested Fine Gael would win 35 percent of the vote, with the current leading party in government, Fianna Fail, dropping to a record low of 14 percent.

It is not clear if the hack was an attempt to hinder pre-election campaigns, but Anonymous left a message on the Fine Gael website, which read:

“Nothing is safe, you put your faith in this political party and they take no measures to protect you.”

The party’s website has been replaced with a place-holder while an investigation is launched.

Anonymous takes down Visa, Amazon, PayPal, Swiss bank, Assange prosecutor

War has been declared on the internet between hackers backing Wikileaks and companies who have withdrawn support for the website. The hackers have already launched attacks against several companies and we can reveal that more are on the cards.

This week a hacker group, calling itself Anonymous, led a series of attacks called Operation: Payback. They targeted MasterCard, which stopped processing donations to Wikileaks. It managed to take MasterCard’s website offline yesterday with a series of DDoS attacks, effectively crippling much of MasterCard’s online services.

MasterCard is mostly back online today. It issued the following statement: 

“MasterCard has made significant progress in restoring full-service to its corporate website. Our core processing capabilities have not been compromised and cardholder account data has not been placed at risk. While we have seen limited interruption in some web-based services, cardholders can continue to use their cards for secure transactions globally.”

Today, Visa is in the crosshairs. Visa’s website came under attack from hackers and is currently down. It is likely to see sustained attacks throughout the day, with web services unlikely to resume until some time tomorrow.

The prosecutor leading the sexual assault case against Julian Assange in Sweden has come under attack. The prosecutor website, www.aklagare.se, was targeted and taken down. We managed to briefly access it to view a statement on the attack, but it was quickly down again within minutes.

Security firm PandaLabs was the first to report the attack on the Swedish prosecutor website and now PandaLabs’ own website is offline, suggesting it may also have suffered an attack.

The Swiss Post Office bank PostFinance, which recently froze Assange’s assets, was also on the hackers’ blacklist, with its website experiencing difficulties following DDoS attacks.

There have also been some reports that Amazon, which terminated Wikileaks’ hosting on its service, has been attacked, but its website is currently online. Likewise, PayPal is under attack but is also currently online. Both websites are likely to suffer further attacks later today and tomorrow in the next wave of Operation: Payback.

In a message from Anonymous yesterday Twitter was marked for a major attack due to accusations that it is censoring Wikileaks to prevent it from trending. So far Twitter has remained online, but there is little doubt that some disruption will be seen to its service over the coming days.

Today Facebook banned the Operation: Payback page for violation of the terms of service, which Anonymous appears not to have taken kindly to, so it is likely that it too has joined the long list of targets which will be DDoSed.

Many of the Operation: Payback websites and accounts have been suspended. A number of its Twitter accounts have been deleted, while some of its website were periodically down. It is not known if this is a counter-attack from government agencies, security firms, other hackers, or simply a suspension from the web hosts themselves, but the hackers have quickly brought things back online or replaced accounts with new ones.

Pentagon Papers leaker supports Wikileaks, Datacell to sue Visa and Mastercard

Wikileaks may be under attack from many angles, but today it gained additional support from ex-intelligence officers, including the man who leaked the Pentagon Papers some fourty years ago, as well as the credit card processing company Datacell, which said it would sue Visa and MasterCard billions of Euros in damages for blocking Wikileaks.

Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971, threw his support behind Wikileaks, saying that Wikileaks is just as important as his leak, which included over 7,000 pages of documents from the US military concerning the Vietnam War.

Ellsberg also said that attacks on Julian Assange are similar to attacks he endured after publishing the Pentagon Papers. He was brought up on charges of theft and possession of secret documents and was indicted, but a mistrial was later declared after it was revealed that the Nixon administration was attempting to meddle with the case. Assange faces far more serious charges of sexual assault, however, which have led to his arrest yesterday.

Ellsberg was strongly condemnatory of Amazon, which ended its web hosting of Wikileaks. He called the company’s actions “cowardice and servility”, suggesting that it made its decision under pressure from Senators and Congressmen. Amazon has denied this, stating that Wikileaks broke its site rules, but Ellsberg said he will no longer use Amazon.com because of the incident.

Wikileaks has also been blocked by a number of other companies, including three essential financial bodies: PayPal, Visa and MasterCard. This will effectively cripple Wikileaks’ ability to earn money to fund the exposure of confidential documents, with only 1,000 of the roughly 250,000 cables yet published.

The ban by Visa and MasterCard has not just upset Wikileaks, however. Datacell, which provides Wikileaks with the credit and debit card processing service required for its donations has accused the two companies of putting political influence above the law.

It said that it has lost billions due to the block and said it would sue Visa and MasterCard for damages, as the ban has threatened its business. It is not clear how successful such a lawsuit might be, but it is sure to be welcomed by Wikileaks and its supporters.

UK cops given 1984 style powers to protect Olympic brands

The Olympics is coming to London in 2012 and police powers in this country will be extended to protect companies sponsoring the games from having their brands polluted by their competitors.

According to Reuters, the cops will be able to stop people from carrying items to sporting events that compete with the sponsors.

The UK government already has over 1,000 reasons to enter your house. And the cops will be given the power to enter people’s homes and do weird things like seize posters, says Reuters.

So if you are crazy enough to wander over to the site with a Burger King cheeseburger rather than a McDonald’s, expect a cop to snatch it from your hand and confiscate it.

If you are nuts enough to be drinking Pepsi Cola rather than Coca Cola, expect that to be poured down the drain too.

For goodness sake don’t bring your HP, Dell, Lenovo or Sony laptop to the games, because Acer is a top level sponsor too.

You’ll be OK if you’re wearing an Omega watch, like we all do.

Don’t pay for things with your Mastercard because Visa is a sponsor.  If you’ve got a Samsung mobile phone, that will be OK. Samsung is another top level sponsor.